“My Mamma Taught Me Not To Pee On My Hands” is not an excuse!

When was the last time you washed your hands?

Was it this morning?

Did you wash your hands before leaving the restroom? Everyone says they do but I still see more people leave the restroom without washing their hands than those that do. The most common reason given for not doing so is, “My mamma taught me not to pee on my hands.” I have a real problem with that kind of arrogance. It disregards the well being of everyone you encounter for the rest of the day. It’s a giant “F- You!” to the rest of us. I wash my hands twice in public restrooms. The additional washing is on the way in because I want my hands to be as germ-free as possible before I handle the family jewels.

I am fairly obsessed with hand washing, not just around restrooms. I’m not really a gernaphobe. It’s just that, over the years, I’ve gotten used to washing my hands fairly often. From when I was a little boy helping my grandmother in the kitchen, to a teenager slicing lunch meat at the deli counter, and then as an adult working in the food and beverage industry, clean hands have always been very important. As obsessions go, hand washing is pretty mundane. But it does have it’s drawbacks. As any bartender will tell you, all that hand washing makes for dry, chapped hands.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the overuse of those stupid plastic gloves that have become the mainstay of the food service industry. Those gloves have made people lazy. I watched a deli worker at my local supermarket begin to fill my deli order wearing the same single use gloves I saw him wearing while wiping down his work area. Single use gloves are not supposed to take the place of hand washing. In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, single use gloves are only effective if placed on properly washed hands and changed at appropriate times during the food operation. I told him to stop, change his gloves, and start my order again. He got upset, so I left without my order. Of course, I spoke to the manager first.

Another concern is the proliferation of hand sanitizer, which has become a substitute for hand washing. When used properly, hand sanitizers kill 99% of germs. But soap and water are still more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. Furthermore, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), hand sanitizers may increase the risk for outbreaks of highly contagious viruses.

“It’s widely recognized that improper use of antibiotics contributes greatly to the development and spread of super bugs in health care settings, but the link between hand sanitizers and bacterial resistance is less clear.”- Lauren Vogel CMAJ

However, according to microbiologist Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, Antibacterial products leave residues where they are used. They linger and continue to kill the bacteria, but not effectively or randomly. The naturally stronger bacteria that survived the initial assault develop new defense mechanisms against the chemicals. This selection process gives rise to a new generation that is resistant to the offending compounds. (source)

I suspect Mr Levy is referring to alcohol-free antimicrobial hand sanitizers that are made with triclosan or povidone-iodine which, as shown in the video below, are ineffective at best.

In the following video, which aired in February 2013, ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser compares the best ways for killing germs, including E Coli.

So, in order for your hand sanitizer to be effective it has to be alcohol based (>63% alcohol), you must use enough to cover your hands, and you need to work it into your hands and let air dry for about 30 seconds.  Why not just wash your hands with soap and water?

How many times a day do you touch your face?

In a scene from Contagion (2011) Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) claims that the average person touches their face between two and three thousand times a day, or 2-5 times every waking minute.

According to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, the reality is closer to 16 times an hour. That’s still a lot. Each time you touch your face, you’re transmitting whatever is on your fingers to your face. Touching your face with dirty hands, or cellphone, is the most common way to spread diseases like Influenza and Ebola.

We’ve become so reliant on quick fixes and magic bullets that we’ve forgotten the basics. I don’t mean for this to be a rant. I’m just curious how we’ve come to rely on these products that were only meant to be used in addition to, not in place of, good hygiene. And it’s kinda strange to me that, with all the paranoia over Ebola, people aren’t taking the simplest precaution.  Just 20 seconds of soap and water. If that’s all it takes, why not wash your hands??

For more info, check out the CDC Show Me The Science Hand Sanitizer vs Hand Washing and the CDC Guidelines to Washing Your Hands.

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It Came From The Freezer! …a #FoodPorn Mystery

“What are we having for dinner?”

It was a simple question, really. But I honestly had no idea. It was a busy day in the middle of a busy week. Neither of us had put much thought into food.

“Isn’t there some chili left in the freezer?”

Well, yes. It is quite possible that one of the unmarked containers in the freezer is the last of the chili. So I took what I thought was a quart of chili from the freezer and set it in the sink to start defrosting while I went about the rest of my afternoon.

freezer2pcWe spent much of our free time last week taking stock of what needs to be done around the house before winter settles in. Beyond the usual furnace check-up and window insulation, our kitchen needs painting and the bathtub faucet needs adjusting. So we’ve set aside a few days next week for the anticipated multiple trips to the home improvement store. As usual, I spent the day playing “catch-up”.

When Love got home, he inspected the container that was defrosting in the sink.

“Honey. Are you sure this is chili?

Well, no. I wasn’t entirely sure what was in the container. There are six other quart containers just like it in the freezer. Three of them are chicken stock, two are chicken noodle soup, and one is potato leek soup. All of them are a pale yellow. The one defrosting in the sink was a beef stock brown. So it was either chili or stew. — I told you guys I like to cook.

As I entered the kitchen, Love was holding the container an inch from his nose. His eyes squinted as he turned the mysterious concoction in his hand, trying to identify it’s contents. He pointed at some small shapes visible through the plastic.

“I think these are mushrooms.”

There’s only one way to find out. Let’s heat it up and give it a taste. So I emptied the slushy mixture into a sauce pan and set the heat to low while I finished up the project I was working on. Ten minutes later, Love called from the kitchen.

“I don’t think this is stew, either.”

Now I was really confused! I got to the kitchen and took a look. In the pot was a brown stock with mushrooms floating around and very little else. I could identify some chopped onions. Maybe. But nothing else. We stared at each other for a minute before bursting out into laughter. We threw the mystery sauce away and ate some leftovers for dinner instead.

I still can’t tell you what was in that container. I honestly have no idea.

Since both of us were still in the mood for chili, the next day I made a big pot of it. And if there’s any left for freezing, you can bet I’ll put a label on it.

chili3a

 

Food Porn: The Sweet Days of Summer.

 As summer approaches, I prepare simple syrup for iced coffee in the morning. This seems like a good vessel for something sweet. 😛
20140525_105413

Every joke and pun I can think of regarding that “man” bottle, and the sticky sweetness of simple syrup inside, is a bit too lewd for mixed company. 😉

 

Basic Recipe
makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Simple, right?
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow mixture to cool, then decant into a clean container (preferably glass) with a tight-fitting lid. — or cork, like the sexy male torso bottle pictured. 😉

Keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.

 

  • If you’ve got some vanilla ice cream in the freezer, float a small scoopful on top of your iced coffee.
  • Iced Coffee Float anybody? Put a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream into a tall glass then top with cold black coffee. It’s not exactly “diet” friendly but a little indulgence every once in a while doesn’t hurt.

Simple syrup is also great for fresh brewed iced tea and any mixed drink that calls for sugar.

Stay Cool!

Saying Goodbye To A Dear Friend.

I had intended a Friday post about my recovery from lithotripsy, which is progressing smoothly and without complications. Unfortunately, Thursday morning I received incredibly sad news. A very close friend lost her battle with uterine cancer. I am heart broken by the loss and angry at the circumstances around which she died. The rest of my day was spent in a fog. After not being able to sleep, I found it helpful to just start writing. The following unorganized mess is more therapy for me than anything else.

In the years that my other half and I have been living on this little South Philly block, we’ve established close friendships with our neighbors. With a few exceptions, we look out for one another.

I met Fran through a friend and neighbor who lived two doors down. She was moving onto our block. With her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, Fran fit right in. She was the kindest and most generous soul I have ever had the privilege to know. That’s not hyperbole. There was nothing Fran would not do to lend a hand to anyone in need. If it was within her power, it was done.

First Friday Sushi Lunch

A perfect example of our First Friday Sushi events. 🙂

My friendship with Fran developed slowly. We bonded over our Italian heritage, and gastronomic pleasure, which included first Friday lunches with our friend Scott. I’ve often bored you with pictures of sushi and sashimi. Fran was a vegetarian, but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying her sushi. 🙂  She and I had an ongoing dialogue about ways to recreate meat-free versions of childhood dishes. It wasn’t uncommon to see either of us carrying plates of food from one house to another. Fran was the inspiration for some of my favorite epicurean experiments.

About eighteen months ago, Fran began to experience pain and bleeding. She was in her sixties so menstruation was out of the question. After a few months of doctors and tests and more doctors and even more tests, it was determined that Fran had stage 3 uterine cancer. It was emotionally crushing.

Our monthly lunch dates continued even as Fran started chemotherapy, but tapered off as some of her experimental treatments took their toll. She was listening to advice from conflicting sources, and people with no medical training who claimed a certain food, vitamin, or magic root was a cancer cure. She went gluten free, tried a macrobiotic diet, and went to extremes to find and eat only organic fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, she was asking Scott to pick up bagels from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Now, let me stop here for a minute and assure you that I am in no way blaming Fran for her illness or worse, her death. That would be absurd and cruel. I am Pro-Choice. Being pro-choice means allowing a person autonomy. I’m angry because there is so much misinformation being disseminated out there. She was scared. She was reaching for anything that might give her hope. I feel, however incorrectly, that Fran was taken advantage of. I  mentioned the Dunkin’ Donuts because Fran needed to get food into her body. When you’re perpetually nauseous, any food is better than nothing. We encouraged her to eat whatever she could keep down. You’d be surprised at some of the odd things she craved. Fran had an affinity for pickled cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone. We asked if she might not be pregnant. {:-)

Last summer, Fran found out about a Vitamin C therapy. It’s an alternative cancer treatment that involves massive doses of vitamin c administered intravenously. Since it could be administered while a patient was also undergoing chemo, Fran signed up. The treatments were hell. Chemo was bad enough, but on the days she received the vitamin C, she was in bad shape. It often took two days for her to recover from the therapy. By January, the oncologist was refusing to give her chemo because she was too weak. The best they could do was rehydrate her with saline and send her home. The vitamin C had done more harm than good. It was clear that Fran’s time on Earth was limited.

During the worst of her illness, it was Scott who did most of the heavy lifting. When Fran needed something, it was Scott she called. Scott taxied her to doctors, treatments, and trips to the grocery store.  Fran’s illness took it’s toll on him. Her death hit him hard. He’d been through this once before when longtime friend and neighbor Mary Ann died just a few years ago. This time was worse because he and Fran were real close.

Fran was rushed to the ER Tuesday night. She was in pain and having trouble breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, where they treated her pain. There was nothing more they could do. Her siblings took shifts sitting with her in the hospital room. Fran passed away 1:00 am Thursday morning. Her brother and one of her sisters was in the room with her.

There’s going to be a viewing next week, followed by a Wiccan ceremony. Fran was a Wiccan high priestess. I’m so proud of her sister, who is Roman Catholic, for adhering to Fran’s wishes.

I’m not sure how to wrap this meandering mess up, but I suspect you will all understand. This past year has been a rough one. There’s been enough sickness in our little burg. So you’ll forgive me if I tend toward the ridiculous sometimes. It’s a hell of a lot better than dwelling on the sadness. Besides, I’d much rather remember the happy, joyful soul that was Franny T.

Cooking, Grandma, Food, and Love

Like Pavlov’s dog, I think of my grandmother whenever I’m cooking.

I inherited my love of cooking from my grandmother. Some of my earliest memories involve helping her in the kitchen. She kept my little hands busy fetching ingredients from the pantry, rolling meatballs, or “tasting” the pasta to make sure it was al dente.

I’m pretty sure I was the only five year old who knew what al dente meant!

Food was how she expressed creativity and love. It was how she passed along wisdom to three of her grandchildren. Involving us in the process had the added benefit of keeping her abreast of what was happening in our lives.

What else are you supposed to do while you’re making pizzelles, but talk about school and friends?

Even as I’m cooking today, I can hear her voice, “Clean as you go.” She would insist that while I was waiting for the meat to brown or the water to boil, I could be cleaning the cutting board, the mixing bowl or the work surface.

food2Ingredients all lined up. One of the things I got from my grandmother is having ingredients prepped and ready.

Onions, wine & stock, tomato, flour, paprika & cayenne, tomato paste, fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic, brown sugar & salt all wait their turn for “Onion Braised Brisket”

-o-

If it’s Sunday, I’m cooking. If I’m cooking, I’m thinking of my grandmother. 🙂

The Unsung Heroes of the American Workforce

I posted this to Tumblr the other day, and thought it worthy of a re-post here.

A Labor Day PSA:

The next time you go to a bar, a restaurant, or any other service oriented place of business, please remember to leave a decent tip.

TIPS = To Insure Proper Service

People in the service industry work hard to make sure you have a pleasant experience. They’ve got to keep a smile on their faces even with rude customers.

They are not slaves. Please don’t treat them as such.

The way you treat service personnel will be reflected back to you. If you treat your waiter or bartender with kindness, their gratitude will be evident. As a bartender, I periodically sent complimentary drinks to good customers. The bad ones were often made to wait.

Remember also that there are some things beyond your waiter’s control.

Your waiter is your advocate, and does everything in his/her power to bring you what you ordered. Don’t punish your waiter because the kitchen made a mistake.

Finally. If you don’t have enough money to leave a tip, stay home.

Never, ever stiff your wait staff. If the service is bad, take the waiter aside and calmly explain. Believe me, they do want to know if there was a problem so they can correct it. If you blow your cool, it will be YOU who is wrong. They can refuse you future service.

For more on Tipping, see CNN Money

Waste Not, Want Not…

You may have seen my recent lament about cleaning the refrigerator

“Just cleaned my fridge. Something creepy just escaped. It ran out the door, screaming something about invading Cleveland”

Among the items buried in the back of the freezer was a thick tuna steak, which we bought about six months ago to make Orange Chipotle Seared Tuna. It’s a great recipe. I highly recommend it.

Whenever I find good quality fish at a good price, I buy extra and freeze it. Of course, I do run the risk of forgetting those bargains as they make their way to the back of the freezer.

So here I was with this slightly freezer burned piece of tuna that I really didn’t want to throw away.

How could I save it?

Searching the interwebs, I found several recipes for Olive Oil Poached Tuna. 

I added the poached tuna to whatever veggies I found in the fridge, topped it with shaved Parmesan, and made this, rather satisfying salad…

Diner2

The tuna turned out great! The salad was delicious!